MUMBAI (Reuters) - Katrina Kaif is not your typical Bollywood heroine -- she wasn’t born in India and can barely speak Hindi.
But the 24-year-old with her heavily accented English broke the mould by becoming one of Bollywood’s top draws.
From being derided for her inability to look Indian to becoming the most searched-for Indian celebrity on Google, Kaif has come a long way.
The actress spoke to Reuters about the journey.
Q: It’s been more than four years since you entered the industry. Have you always got this kind of attention?
A: “No, you grow in the audience’s awareness with every film. You can’t come in with your first film and expect everyone to love you overnight. It happens to some people, but not to me. It’s been a process -- from ‘Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya’ to ‘Sarkar’, to ‘Humko Deewana Kar Gaye’ to ‘Namastey London’, ‘Welcome’, ‘Race’, ‘Singh is Kinng’. Some people like ‘Namastey London’, some liked ‘Welcome’, and you build on that.”
Q: Have you assessed this growth and its graph?
A: ”If you are a stone and are falling you can never assess the magnitude of it. You can only feel the pushing and the stress. But in the rare moment that you can sit back, you do think to yourself that it’s been a wonderful journey and thank God, it has worked out well. Otherwise, imagine if you are in the same position after five years going -- ‘nothing is working out’.
“I was eighteen when ‘Boom’ released, and then I went into modelling for two years. It was a completely different world. You are a child, what do you know about life, and how can you be held responsible for anything? Yet, people judge you and your whole life is spread out in the press. At that age, people are immature, they do make mistakes, but you are living it out in front of the nation.”
Q: Did you imagine at that time there would be so much talk and controversies surrounding you?
A: “When that happens, I always go back to my love for movies -- we all have different connections to cinema. For me it was the MGM movies, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire and look at the controversies they had to go through, look at what Marilyn Monroe went through. This has been happening for the last eighty years so if I think I am going to arrive and stop that, then it won’t happen. If you take adulation and money, you can take this too.”
Q: You weren’t perceived as the traditional Hindi film heroine when you came into the industry.
A: “It was a very reluctant acceptance from the industry. It came in little spurts. Like in Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, people said, ‘chalo, theek hai, she looks OK’. Then in ‘Humko Deewana’ they said, ‘OK, so she can look Indian’. It was in ‘Namastey London’ that I got my first bit of acceptance from the industry. Every movie is like piece in the puzzle, which ultimately led to me being trusted with bigger and better films.”
Q: Is ‘New York’ one of those films?
A: “It is the film closest to my heart because it is the first film that I have been able to be ‘me’. It is me without the make-up and the heels and when you are not made up and don’t have stuff on your face or aren’t worried about your lipstick, I can say I am proud of this film. This personally has been a journey for me. When I came for the shoot on the first day, I remember thinking ‘Why have I come here?’ From then on, to shooting the film, to finding myself, I have already gotten so much out of it.”
”But to achieve greater heights, you have to take greater risks. So this is not your typical masala, item song movie. I am not guaranteed of a great opening, I don’t know what to expect. I am much more nervous.
Q: What if it doesn’t do well at the box-office?
A: This film will break my heart, it really will. So many good people came together to make this film. So for now, let us keep the faith.
Q: You said you were faced with doubt when you first came on to the set. Why was that?
A: ”‘Singh is Kinng’ had just released in Mumbai and I took the night flight out. It had got the biggest opening ever, there was hysteria. And here I landed up on the sets of a non-big, non-commercial film. And complete panic. I asked myself, ‘What am I doing here. There is no Akshay, no Salman here, what I am doing?’ I walked on to the set, and you could see the armour around me and I was like ‘No one come near me’.
“But Kabir saw through me. He said, just give her a day or two and she will find her own space. For the first week, me, John, Neil, we were like aliens. But in a week, everyone got rid of their starry egos and came together.”
Q: You are now doing a Prakash Jha film, a Rajkumar Santoshi film. Are you leaving the ‘Singh is Kinng’s and ‘Welcome’s behind?
A: ”Not at all. I stand by ‘Singh is Kinng’. It was a fun film, in that space Anees Bazmee is fantastic. I would definitely work with him again. But it is also important to do something different.
”With Santoshi, everyone told me, don’t look at the script, it doesn’t matter. Just work with him, because what you will learn from him as an actor is invaluable. With ‘Rajniti’ (Jha’s film), the script just blew me away. He had worked on it for five years, and his knowledge on the subject was amazing.
“But I am also doing a ‘De Dana Dan’, which is a fun film. I don’t really overthink this. Akshay (Kumar) called me the other day and said will you do Priyadarshan’s next film. I heard a line of the script, I liked it and I said OK. You have to go with your heart.”